If you’re facing murder charges in Texas, your entire life will hang in the balance. The quality of the representation you choose could determine the sentence you receive (which can be serving a long prison sentence or even the death penalty). Criminal homicide can include several different offenses, including the following:
- Capital murder
- Criminally negligent homicide
Any death that is the result of negligence or the actions of someone else (regardless of whether another crime was reported) may be tried in court as murder or homicide, and the difference between each type of defense can be a matter of life and death in the State of Texas.
Types of Murder Charges in Texas
There’s no such thing as “second-degree murder” in the State of Texas. Instead, it’s just called “murder” and is considered a first-degree felony. Murder charges in Texas can lead to up to 20 years in a state prison with no possibility for parole — at least, not after serving many years of incarceration. A murder conviction can also result in a fine of up to $10,000, which must be paid to the state.
First-degree murder is called “capital murder” in the State of Texas. The important difference is that capital punishment (which refers to the death penalty) is an option for sentencing. As long as you’re at least 17 years of age and the circumstances of the alleged murder are considered “egregious,” it may be considered capital murder and could result in the most severe penalties.
You committed an act of manslaughter if you killed someone recklessly, which exists is there’s a substantial and unjustifiable risk that resulted in someone else’s death. To be convicted of manslaughter in Texas, you must be aware that the risk exists but did it anyway. The act must be a gross deviation from the standard of care that would ordinarily be exercised under the circumstances. If you shot a loaded gun into a crowd without aiming at someone in particular (or were even aiming above the crowd), you could be prosecuted under a manslaughter charge and can serve 2-20 years in prison.
Criminally negligent homicide occurs if you killed someone else because of “criminal negligence,” which occurs if you weren’t aware of the risk of harm but should have been. If two friends are “playing guns” by aiming and pulling their triggers while believing they’re not loaded are most likely engaging in criminal negligence if it’s actually loaded and resulted in someone’s death. This can lead to time in a state jail between 180 days and 2 years.
Defenses to Murder Charges in Texas
If you have been charged with any kind of murder offense in the State of Texas, you may be justified in killing that person if it was because of self-defense or in the defense of someone else. You have the right to use force against someone who is attacking you, is committing, or is threatening to commit a criminal act against you. You can also be justified in killing that person if he or she enters your residence. There are important limitations to this right of self-defense, which include the following:
- You must not be the aggressor of the confrontation.
- You can’t claim self-defense if the other person only engaged in verbal provocation. You can’t punch or batter anyone who insults you.
- The use of force must be proportionate and reasonable under the circumstances. If you stab someone multiple times with a knife after that person threw a punch, you can’t claim self-defense.
Use of deadly force is only permitted if someone else threatens you with the same level of force. It can also be used if you’re in imminent danger of any of the following:
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Aggravated robbery
Use of force can used against someone who unlawfully and with force enters your home, vehicle, or workplace. It can also be used if you had a reasonable belief that use of force is justified and necessary under the circumstances. This is determined on an objective level. If a reasonable person in the same situation wouldn’t feel threatened or that use of deadly force wasn’t called for, you may not avoid criminal liability by claiming self-defense (regardless of what you believe).
You can use deadly force in the defense of someone else if:
- You reasonably believe that the third person would be justified in performing an act of self-defense.
- You reasonably believe that your immediate intervention is needed to protect the other person.
Your actions will be judged on an “objective, reasonable person” standard. If your beliefs aren’t the same as a reasonable person in the same set of circumstances, the killing wouldn’t be justified (regardless of your personal beliefs).
If you’re looking for a criminal defense lawyer in Corpus Christi to help you in your defense of murder charges in Texas, be sure to get in touch with Gale Law Group.